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University history researcher distinguished at 2021 FNR Awards

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Published on Friday, 22 October 2021

Three out of seven awards by the Luxembourg National Research Fund to acknowledge outstanding work in the area of research went to researchers from the University of Luxembourg.

Researchers at the University’s Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History (C²DH) received the Outstanding Promotion of Science to the Public Award as well as the Outstanding Mentor Award. In addition, Dr. Christa Birkel, who obtained her PhD at the Faculty of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences, received one of the awards for best Phd thesis.

The FNR Awards Ceremony took place at the Maison des Arts et des Étudiants on Belval Campus. Since 2009, the FNR has held the annual FNR Awards in recognition of Luxembourg’s research community’s outstanding contribution to science. Awards are presented in four categories, and each award comes with a 5000 EUR prize:

  • Outstanding Promotion of Science to the Public
  • Outstanding Mentor
  • Outstanding PhD Thesis
  • Outstanding Scientific Achievement 

History was made: University awards go to history research

  • Outstanding Promotion of Science to the Public Awardee: Stefan Krebs and the C²DH REMIX Project Team 

The research project "Remixing Industrial Pasts in the Digital Age: Sounds, Images, Ecologies, Practices and Materialities in Space and Time" investigates the industrial history of the Minett region. The project is part of Esch2022 European Capital of Culture. A team of historians, anthropologists and designers investigate lesser-known stories from the Minett region by focusing on neglected topics such as environmental pollution, workers' consumption habits, housing development, migration and secret flows of people, goods and information across the border.

The project findings will be presented to in a virtual exhibition in 2022. By making use of public history methods such as crowdsourcing and oral history interviews, the project involves the regions’ residents in the research. To this end, the team hosted a Temporary History Lab in Esch-sur-Alzette in 2020. Residents could take part in the crowdsourcing of historical sources, record their personal life story in an oral history interview, take an auto-portray or record a sound postcard.

The highlight of the lab was the interactive video installation "Historical Voices from the Minett". The video installation featured six personal life stories related to the Minett region. Based upon existing and new historical research, the stories were written by historians and anthropologists, they were then voiced and the spoken stories were accompanied by images from various local archives. The video installation, featuring various regional languages, resonated with both locals and visitors.

Stefan Krebs is Assistant Professor for Contemporary History at the C²DH. He received his PhD in the history of technology from RWTH Aachen University. His research interests lie in cultural history of engineering, automobile and design as well as the history of repairing.  


  • Outstanding PhD Thesis awardee: Christa Birkel

Dr. Christa Birkel carried out her PhD as part of the FNR-funded research project “LUXDYNAST- Europe and the House of Luxembourg - Governance, Delegation and Participation between Region and Empire (1308 -1437)”. She received the Excellent Thesis Award 2020 from the Doctoral School in Humanities and Social Sciences.

Her thesis focuses on elements of power and rule. While medieval research inherited a one-dimensional understanding of rule from the 19th century, according to which the ruled were exclusively subject to the will of their ruler, it has since then been shown that rule in the Middle Ages was far more complex and interactive than earlier generations of researchers suggested. It is now possible to describe the functioning of rule in the Middle Ages more precisely by means of a toolkit of sociological, politological and historical concepts and approaches.

The late medieval Duchy of Luxembourg represents a thrilling field of investigation and testing of these new analytical tools. At the beginning of the 14th century, the networking of the counts of Luxembourg and their integration into larger frames of reference increased significantly. In addition to this meta-regional approach, the dissertation also had to break down a multi-level political system for Luxembourg itself: Since 1388, the duchy had been ruled by alternating lien holders and was thus characterised by a dualistic system of rule. The dissertation questioned among others the shaping of politics between cooperation and competition, the participation opportunities for local elites, and the significance of consensual and authoritative procedures.


  • Outstanding Mentor Awardee: Andreas Fickers

This newly introduced award rewards exceptional mentorship, when a supervisor supports professional and career development while passing along positive research values and fostering a diverse and inclusive research environment. Prof. Andreas Fickers is since 2016 Director of the Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History (C²DH). He completed his PhD in 2002 at RTWH Aachen University.

Several of his PhD students nominated him for this award without his knowledge. “Working with Andreas is like playing a game of Tennis” says Aurélia Lafontaine, one of his PhD students. “He picks up every single one of your ideas, gives valuable comments and then lets you rethink your proposal.” Or, as Dominique Santana puts it: “For Andreas, if you are doing your best and you are being honest to yourself while doing it, then it is impossible to fail in research.”

“The core of academic research is people and if you don't have an interest in people, then you won't be interested in their research,” says Andreas Fickers. “I am moved and honored to be the first recipient of a new award in which the FNR honours the advancement of science but also the importance of mentorship for the advancement of science. "

Watch the live stream on the FNR website.

Coypright: Olivier Minaire